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Institute for Research in Biomedicine
Istituto di Ricerca in Biomedicina

Via Vincenzo Vela 6 - CH-6500 Bellinzona
Tel. +41 91 820 0300 - Fax +41 91 820 0302 - info [at] irb [dot] usi [dot] ch

IRB collaborates with CERBIOS on developing antibodies targeted at Leukemia Cells

on Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB-USI, Bellinzona, www.irb.usi.ch) and Cerbios-Pharma SA (Bargengo, Lugano), a company active in developing and producing active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), have started collaborating to develop Antibodies’ derivatives to treat Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), which makes it possible to target leukemia cells without attacking healthy ones, thereby improving therapeutic efficacy and limiting the side effects of chemotherapy.

Dr. Varani’s group at the IRB has developed antibodies (molecules in the immune system) that are capable of recognizing target molecules present in large quantities in leukemia cells, but not in healthy ones. The antibody is attached to a nanoparticle that contains a highly potent drug and guides it towards the leukemia cells, without affecting the healthy ones. Once inside the tumor cells, the nanoparticle releases the drug.

The technology for the chemical process necessary to bind the antibody to the nanoparticle and in order to ensure that the drug is released only inside the cells is being developed by Cerbios-Pharma, which has been active for many years in developing and producing APIs for Oncology and, in particular, Antibody Drug Conjugates  (ADCs) with highly active toxins.

“I am very proud to participate, with my team, in this innovative project with a research center that is recognized around the world,” said G. Haering, CEO of Cerbios. “This project is in the context of the sustainability of our company and is targeted at creating long-term synergy between the academic world and industry through knowhow and stimulating knowledge for both parties.”

The collaboration between IRB and Cerbios-Pharma is supported in part by the InterReg LeucITi project, which is financed by the European Community and the Canton of Ticino, with the intent of promoting interaction between research centers and Ticino companies for the sustainable development of the biotechnology sector in the region.

The consortium uses the collaboration with other partners, including: the Fondazione Tettamanti (Ospedale di Monza, Italy), the reference center for pediatric leukemia that will help test the new drug that is in development; the Università di Insubria e Piemonte Orientale (Italy), which will help improve the chemistry of the nanoparticles and evaluate their cell impact.

About Myeloid Leukemia

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), which affects about 40,000 people every year in the West, is one of the forms of leukemia with a lesser possibility of survival. Current treatment calls for using high doses of chemotherapy that, however, are not tolerated by the weakest patients, typically children and people over 60 years old. In the absence of high-dose chemotherapy, the prognosis is very poor and there are high relapse rates. Chemotherapy drugs are toxic because they target and kill healthy cells, in addition to tumor cells.

About Cerbios-Pharma SA

Cerbios is a privately held company located in Lugano, Switzerland, that specializes in the development and manufacture of both chemical and biological APIs for its partners world-wide.
Exclusive, third-party manufacturing services are offered by the Chemical Division for HPAIs and by the Biological Division for monoclonal antibodies, recombinant proteins and pharma probiotics.
Cerbios provides full CMC support to its world-wide partners, including the supply of cGMP clinical batches, registration/validation material and commercially manufactured APIs. Paramount to this is the ability to supply all of the technical documentation and support necessary for a successful registration. Cerbios’ commercial products are marketed worldwide but primarily in Europe, USA, Japan and India.

About the IRB

Founded in 2000 in Bellinzona, it was affiliated with the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) in 2010. Financed by private and public institutions and competitive financing, the IRB has 13 research groups and 120 researchers working on studying different defense mechanisms in the body to fight infections, tumors and degenerative diseases. With more than 600 publications in main scientific journals, the IRB has gained international recognition as a center of excellence for immunology and cell biology. www.irb.usi.ch